Few other films have garnered as much controversy as the “”Za Ginipiggu” (“”Guinea Pig”) series. These films have been the subjects of investigations, news reports, speculation and have even been banned. Actor Charlie Sheen saw one of the movies in the series, “”Flowers of Flesh and Blood,” and believed it to be a real snuff film (and he contacted the FBI about it). For years the only way to get any of these movies were through underground “”collectors,” which lent them an air of authenticity and mystery. They were, for fans of extreme horror, an almost Holy Grail of VHS tapes.
The movies are the brainchild of Satoru Ogura (with the help of manga creator Hideshi Hino), who set out to make some of the most over the top horror movies ever seen. Some resembled snuff films in that they were nothing more than pure torture. (“”Flowers of Flesh and Blood” and “”The Devil’s Experiment” would cause people who had problems with “”Hostel” and its sequel to have a heart attacks if they watched them.) Other films in the series, which also includes a making-of movie and special best-of, were more straightforward … in their own weird way. They dealt with things like murderous “”doctors” and mermaids found in sewers. Some of the films felt downright sinister, and if you happened to get a bad copy where the images on the tape were almost unrecognizable, well that made it worse.
As a whole, the series succeeds if only because it does exactly what it set out to do. The best in the bunch, however, is “”Mermaid in a Manhole.” It has an imaginative story, some insane gore, and is fairly cohesive. It proved that the series wasn’t simply a gorefest that was all splatter and little matter.
It’s easy to do an outrageous gore film. It’s also easy to shock. It’s not so easy to do it well. The creators of this series did that very thing, however. The entire series feels taboo, raw and demented. It also makes you sit back (once your senses are done reeling) and say, “”That actually worked.”
The series, as any series does, has its high and low points. Whether or not something strikes an emotional chord is entirely up to the viewer, but one can’t deny the power of these films. Few who sought them out felt ripped off upon seeing them, and those who don’t know anything about them (it’s unlikely you’ll read about them in “”reputable” outlets) probably aren’t going to want to see them. They aren’t designed to appeal to the casual horror viewer, and they definitely aren’t made for mainstream audiences. They are made for those who take their horror seriously, who treat it like an art form, and who are willing to see how far some artists will take things.
The “”Guinea Pig” series is the perfect example of one of the artist’s roles in society. Sometimes an artist should push himself and his audience to new heights and into uncharted territory. In a film genre where excess is not only desired but is the norm, the artist will have a hard time destroying those boundaries. These films proved it could still be done, and be done with flair.
And as for the outcome of Sheen’s worried call to the FBI? Nothing but more controversy and more sales. Isn’t that always the way?